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Believers Are Kept by the Power of God!

07 Nov
from Google Images

from Google Images

If, as Peter claims in 1Peter 1:4, our inheritance is kept safe by God in heaven, what can be said of the lives we live in the present? Our future is secure, but what practical good does that have for us in the present? Peter clams that we, who will inherit immortality, are also presently protected by the power of God (1Peter 1:5). In other words, we are not left alone to face the world by ourselves. Our protection is made effectual through faith. Our faith in God—trusting him—permits him to act on our behalf. Our free will is important to God, so he will not act for us, unless we put our trust in the fact that he cares and will use his almighty power to help us.

Before Christ came, God’s people were kept by the power of God under the Law. That is, obeying the Law, or at least making a sincere effort to keep the Law, permitted God to bless and protect his people. However, this was effectual only until faith was revealed (cf. Galatians 3:23). After Christ came, his disciples were kept by the power of God through faith, until salvation is revealed (1Peter 1:5), or, put another way, until death is swallowed up in victory (1Corinthians 15:54). God’s power keeps us through faith until that time, and his power is made evident in us through our peace that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7). Although we must live through similar events that occur to all mankind (cf. Ecclesiastes 9:11), and even pass through persecution, which Peter speaks of in the next verses, we understand that God cares for us and exercises his almighty power on our behalf. He does this, because we trust him (cf. 1Peter 5:6-7), and this is done in hope that our peace and God’s evident care for us would witness to unbelievers who speak evil of us and even of God (1Peter 2:12; cf. Philippians 1:28).

We enjoy a salvation that was not understood in ancient Israel, until it was revealed by the Spirit of God through the disciples of Jesus in the last days of age of the Mosaic Law (cf. 1Peter 1:5). As I said above, believers in Jesus are kept through faith by the power of God, until such a time when our mortality is swallowed up by life (2Corinthians 5:1-4). Both logic and Scripture tell us that once our salvation is complete, and we actually possess immortality, faith in that process would no longer be necessary (cf. Hebrews 11:1; Romans 8:24). Peter testified that this salvation first became evident during the last times (years) of the age that ended in 70 AD at the coming of Christ to judge Jerusalem (1Peter 1:5; cf. 1Corinthians 2:9-16; 1Peter 1:7; Isaiah 64:1-12).

I believe that the next verse shows Peter encouraging his readers to rejoice during difficult times, as Weymouth’s translation renders it: “Rejoice triumphantly in the prospect of this, even if now, for a short time, you are compelled to sorrow amid various trials” (1Peter 1:6; cf. James 1:2 and Hebrews 12:11-12). The presence of trials meant to challenge one’s faith caused sorrow for the believer then as it does today. James also referred to the trials mentioned by Peter, saying they would challenge the believer’s faith (James 1:1-3). This evidently shows, at least as far as I am concerned, that both Peter and James wrote near the same time and for the same reason.[1]

Concerning these trials, Peter implies that they should not determine the attitude of the believer, because they cannot take away our joy, unless we permit such a thing to occur. The present sorrows are only temporary, but our salvation is permanent and lasts forever. If we keep our eyes fixed on this, rather than on our present trouble, then any trial of our faith is powerless to take away our joy.

Peter claimed that it was the Jewish believer’s trust in God that was being tried – i.e. their faith (1Peter 1:7). Is God worthy of their trust and loyalty? Can they trust him to give them immortality? Although this specific trial period was intended especially for Jewish believers in the Diaspora in the five Roman provinces mentioned in 1Peter 1:1, the fact that it tried their faith (trust) in God, Peter’s letter is also applicable to every believer whose faith is undergoing a trial by fire, whether due to life’s circumstances or through deliberate attack. The implication is: if God isn’t dependable to help us in our daily affairs (keep us as mentioned in 1Peter 1:5), how can we trust him to give us immortality later? The fiery trial reveals the presence of Jesus with us as he helps us endure, and this revelation shows us God is dependable and worthy of our trust to give us what he has promised.

Regardless of what one believes about the coming of difficult times, the trial itself has great value, if endured. It is much more valuable than wealth, because wealth can be lost or destroyed, but our salvation cannot be destroyed, marred or made weak (i.e. exhausted over time), because it is kept by God for us in heaven (cf. 1Peter 1:4), where man cannot destroy or adversely affect it. Therefore, if we hold on to this belief when folks who don’t understand challenge our loyalty to God, we are stronger for the experience and opportunity to stand fast in our trust that God is with us and will reward us in the end.

It is interesting that the trials mentioned by Peter embraced the entire region of the five Roman provinces of Asia Minor at once. Therefore, logic demands that they must have had a common source or authority. As I mentioned in a previous blogpost,[2]  this persecution probably originated from Jerusalem and was executed throughout Asia Minor under the influence of the Jerusalem authorities, especially the high priest, Annas. What should be seen here, then, is the obvious temporariness of the trials, because Jesus had predicted the destruction of Jerusalem (Mark 14:62),[3]   and, although the specific time wasn’t known, Jesus’ word was fulfilled in 70 AD. Therefore, Peter’s encouragement of the believers in Asia Minor to “Rejoice… even if now, for a short time, you are compelled to sorrow amid various trials” (1Peter 1:7) makes a great deal of sense, knowing that the end drew near. Once Jerusalem was judged by God, there would be no common authority respected throughout the Jewish communities in the Empire. Therefore, if Peter’s readers endured to the end, they would possess the reward of endurance, which is praise, honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ (1Peter 1:7).

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[1] James was stoned at the direction of  the high priest, Ananias, the son of Annas, the high priest, who was instrumental in crucifying Jesus (cf. John 18:13). See Josephus: Antiquities of the Jews 20.9.1.

[2] See my study: The Persecution in Asia Minor.

[3] See Josephus: Wars of the Jews 2.17.8-9. There he describes how Annas was killed at the very outbreak of the Jewish war with Rome on the 6th day of the 6th month in 66 AD, showing that Annas, to whom Jesus spoke in Mark 14:62, lived to see Jesus coming in the clouds of heaven to judge Jerusalem.

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Posted by on November 7, 2016 in Epistles of Peter

 

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